25th January - Delivering Crossrail
John Parrott - report by Chris Hurricks
At our first meeting of the New Year we were pleased to welcome John Parrott to talk to us about this mammoth project. Local publicity had brought along several visitors, the total audience numbering a gratifying 50. Doubtless most of those had heard of Crossrail whilst others had more detailed knowledge but John was here to give us the 'why' and the 'how' and importantly, how much?
John himself had joined Crossrail (now part of Transport for London) in 2008 and had primarily been responsible for 'stakeholder contact', in particular with the borough of Tower Hamlets, an area which is heavily affected by the project. In addition he is one of a team of three who give talks to interested bodies on the greater Crossrail scheme. This was actually his penultimate talk as in two weeks time he was leaving to join the Olympics Team, as he put it to me on the train home, 'A once in a lifetime chance to be involved in the Olympics'. In my job with British Railways I was involved with Crossrail issues as long ago as 1989 but John explained that the basic idea was somewhat older, no less than the famed I.K.Brunel having put forward proposals to extend his GWR from Paddington in an easterly direction across London. Since 1989 there have been several false dawns but after much lobbying by interested parties the Government finally saw sense and put a hybrid Bill through Parliament in 2005, with Royal Assent being granted in 2008. Construction started on 25th May 2009 with the driving of the first pile at Canary Wharf. Crossrail is officially CR1 whilst the proposed Chelsea to Hackney link CR2.
Now to cost ...... are you all sitting down? The figure is £15.9billion, definitely not pocket money except perhaps for our Government when dealing with the banking crisis! What do we get for this huge sum? Crossrail will provide an east – west railway through London of nearly 50 miles in length from Maidenhead to Shenfield with spurs off to Heathrow Airport and via Canary Wharf to Abbey Wood. It will use existing surface tracks from Maidenhead to just west of Paddington and from Pudding Mill Lane, just west of Stratford, to Shenfield with new twin bore tunnels extending for 13 miles under Central and East London.
It will be Europe's largest engineering project and at is peak will employ 14,000 people on its construction. Crossrail will add 10% to London's total public transport network capacity and will give a huge increase in through journey possibilities together with much needed relief to several Underground lines in Central London. It will drastically reduce current journey times by up to half. It will contribute at least £20bn to the British economy and will ensure the continued growth of London as a world city and leading finance centre. At peak times 24 trains per hour will pass through Central London. The line follows the route of planned growth in London, for example there are currently 96,000 commuters per day into Canary Wharf and this is planned to increase to 200,000 by 2025. There will be 37 stations on the Crossrail route, eight of which will be new Underground stations in London, and the aim is to have step free access at all of these. The major constructional problems are in burrowing under London and building the new stations, a large part of the budget being swallowed up by this. This route will need to go between existing underground lines and the Post Office railway and thus will be quite deep with Bond Street being the deepest of the London stations. Indeed serious consideration is being given to using geothermal energy. Several shafts will be opened up to gain access for tunnelling, some of these sites having generated a considerable number of objections. As a result the number of such sites has been reduced.
There are known to be many local problems e.g. Bats (a protected species) in some of the buildings to be demolished, archaeological remains, a farm to be moved at Stepney and two WW2 bombs buried on the Canary Wharf site. Other problems like this will no doubt be thrown up as work proceeds. Disposal of the excavated spoil is a major task and most will go to build a new wildlife sanctuary at Wallasea on the River Crouch, whilst the Grand Union Canal is being considered as a means to bring in aggregate. The spoil will be taken away by rail (14%), by barge (39%) and by road (47%). There will be a website showing the tunnel boring machines in action in real time. The single bore tunnels will be 6m wide with an excavation walkway on the side. The route will be 25kv overhead wired throughout and the trains will consist of 10 cars with three doors each side per coach. Maximum capacity will be 1,500 passengers per train seated and standing. Tenders have gone out for the trains with Continental builders likely to be successful. The maintenance depot for the trains will be at Old Oak Common with several other stabling points along the route.
The most often asked question is 'Why is it planned to terminate at Maidenhead rather than Reading?' The answer until recently has been that the cost of extending to Reading would have been just too much. However, the complete rebuilding of Reading station having now been agreed together with electrification of the GWML will almost certainly, and much more sensibly, result in Crossrail terminating at Reading.
The train lengths dictate that station platforms will be 250m in length and station sites will be quite large. As an example the new underground station at Liverpool Street will extend virtually from Liverpool Street almost to Moorgate beneath Finsbury Circus. Full height platform edge will be used at the underground stations. The rolling stock will have regenerative braking and there will be uphill grades approaching the platforms to assist braking.
The first TBM will commence work at Royal Oak in 2011 with trial running on the line by the end of 2016 and phased opening during 2017. So far as the GEML is concerned basically Crossrail will take over the existing Liverpool Street to Shenfield Metro service but at more frequent intervals and with longer trains. To give sufficient capacity it is likely that additional trains will run at peak times overground to Liverpool Street, platforms 15 to 18. On the GE the line will surface at Pudding Mill Lane and platform extensions will be required at most stations together with a new terminating platform (No 6) at Shenfield. To get to Heathrow, say from Ipswich, will require just one change and a journey time of 36 minutes from Liverpool Street to the Airport will give a considerably quicker journey than today.
It is fair to say that the audience were impressed with the sheer scale of this project and in view of the huge workload the opening in 2017 is not that far away There were a few questions before Steve Worsley gave a very well deserved vote of thanks to our speaker, bringing out the huge change in London's transport which the scheme will bring and comparing H & S rules in Brunel's day with the rather stricter requirements today.
John left an interesting paper with the Society showing how the decision to terminate the route at Shenfield was arrived at and anyone interested in acquiring a copy should contact Chris Hurricks on 01277 624690.